By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — While most of Florida’s high schools will be playing football tonight, the lights will be out at Port Charlotte High School since the Pirates have the night off.
Even without a game to prepare for this week, that doesn’t mean they took it easy. If anything, they took it up a level.
“We had a team meeting about that on Monday,” Coach Jordan Ingman said. “It’s not an off week for us. It’s a work week, and that’s how we approach it.”
Only three weeks into the season, the Pirates, as well as Lemon Bay had an extra week to prepare for their games on Sept. 16.
Although it’s so early in the season, Ingman has found the positives in a week-three bye.
“We’ve identified some things we have to get better at,” Ingman said. “So we have the opportunity to get better at them early in the season, rather than wait for week six or seven when most teams have theirs. I actually like it a lot.
“Camp is very tough for us. We’re hard on our kids during camp. So coming out of camp, physically, they need to get their body rested still coming off from camp. I think it’s worked out well for us.”
It was more or less a happy accident that the Pirates had this week off. They originally had a game scheduled, but the other team backed out at the 11th hour, and it didn’t leave Port Charlotte with enough time to find a team to fill the slot.
For all the pros of having an early bye week, of course, there also are negatives.
“We’re going to play a long stretch (after this week),” Ingman said. “Our goals are always to go to the playoffs, and now we won’t have that rest week before the playoffs.”
The final week of the season could potentially be a de facto bye week for Port Charlotte. The Pirates host Westland Hialeah, a team that went 0-10 in 2015, and is 0-2 this year. That could be a game where the starters build an early lead, and spend a majority of the game watching their second-unit teammates from the sidelines.
As for this week, Ingman and the Pirates have identified issues they need to work on. They want to clean up a few fundamentals, and conditioning is also key.
Specifically, Ingman feels the team hasn’t done a great job at blocking on the perimeter. He hopes making sure the players are in top shape will help with those fundamentals.
Individually, players like quarterback Paul Barnes and defensive tackle Devin Leacock, have their own goals in addition to the team’s.
“Coach told us we should each focus on something we want to get better at, and then at the end of the day we’ll have 22 better things we each did to make us a better football team,” Barnes said. “Running the triple option, you can never spend enough time getting better at that.”
Around the time Barnes would typically be in full pads, standing behind his offensive line, getting ready to lead his team on the opening drive, he’ll still be with them, but not in the same way.
He’ll be in street clothes, and likely sitting on the side of one of those big blockers, as they plan to attend the game of county rival Charlotte to hang out with some friends.
Leacock won’t be joining them.
He’s going to spend the night working, which will likely make his coach happy to see when he reads this.
“I’ll probably just work out or run a little bit,” Leacock said. “I’ve got to get a little conditioning in.”
Ingman and the Port Charlotte coaching staff will be spread out throughout the district to scout the teams they’ll be playing the rest of the season.
That’s because even though there’s no game on their schedule tonight, it’s not an off week.
It’s a work week.
North Miami (2-0) at Charlotte (1-0)
Last week: N. Miami 30, Miami Beach 14; Charlotte 42, Lely 13.
Last season: Charlotte 42, North Miami 8.
Players to watch: North Miami: Deandre Richard (Sr., LB/DE), Erick Joseph (Sr., FS), Scottie Felix (SR., CB). Charlotte: Dee Hicks (Sr., QB), Maleek Williams (Sr., RB), Jacob White (Sr., WR/DB).
What to expect: The Prioneers aren’t the same team from last year that lost to the Tarpons by 34 points. They’re already two-thirds of the way to their win total from 2015. Charlotte also is better than last year. The Tarpons proved there was no rust from missing week one when their scheduled opener was canceled by weather. Charlotte came straight out of the gate with three touchdowns in the first quarter against Lely and never was threatened. While the game may be a little closer this year, expect the same result.
Palmetto Ridge (1-0) at North Port (0-2)
Last week: Palmetto Ridge d. Riverdale, 14-6; Ida Baker d. North Port, 28-6.
Last season: Palmetto Ridge d. North Port 34-0
Players to watch: Palmetto Ridge: Tyler Ervin (Sr., DE), Kyle Thomasson (Sr., QB), Jon Woo (Sr., LB). North Port: Octavious Cummings (Jr., RB), C.K. Poulos (Jr., WR), Skylar Razwilavich (Jr., ATH).
What to expect: The Bobcats are into the difficult portion of their schedule searching for the first win of the season. With Thomasson in his first game as quarterback last week, both of the Bears’ touchdowns came on either special teams or defense. Although Palmetto Ridge is coming off its best season in program history, and will look to build on it this season, if the Bobcats come out with a strong first quarter, they could possibly catch the Bears off guard and steal a win.
Manatee (1-1) at Venice (1-0)
Last week: Manatee 7, Palmetto 3; Venice did not play.
Last meeting (2014): Manatee 10,Venice 0.
Players to watch: Manatee: A.J. Colagiovanni (Sr., QB), Javarius Pollock (Jr., WR). Venice: Court Doss (Jr., RB), Bryce Carpenter (Jr., QB).
What to expect: The Indians have revenge on their minds, although most of the players from that 2014 loss to Manatee aren’t the same. But still, between facing a team which currently holds a win streak against them, and having last week’s game canceled due to weather, Venice will be hungry for a win tonight.
DeSoto County (0-1) at Clearwater Cent. Cath. (2-0)
Last week: Clearwater Central Catholic 49, Indian Rocks Christian 21; Avon Park 41, DeSoto County 3.
Last season: Clearwater Central Catholic 27, DeSoto County 7.
Players to watch: CCC: C.J. Cotman (Sr., ATH), Jakob Parks (Sr., QB). DeSoto County: Niron Washington (Sr. RB/DB), Emmanuel Wesley (Sr., WR/DB).
What to expect: CCC is one of the top programs in Pinellas County, and was one game shy of reaching the Class 3A state championship last season. Cotman is coming off a year where he had more than 1,200 yards between rushing and receiving. If the Bulldogs hope to win, they’ll have to start with containing him.